Coming together for a cause

It might have been cold and snowy outside, but inside the practice field at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex you definitely got the warm fuzzies on Tuesday night. And it wasn’t because the heat was turned on.

Community members, from kids to corporate leaders, gathered there for a Literacy Assemble Kit event with the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, putting together packets that will be sent to Pittsburgh Public Schools for students in kindergarten through second grade.

“This is part of our 100,000 books initiative, which is trying to get 100,000 books into the hands of local children,” said Wendy Koch, the Director of Volunteer Engagement for United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “We understand the importance of reading on grade level. By the time you are in third grade if you don’t you are four times more likely not to graduate. We really want to encourage children to read and provide them with one of their own books so they understand and can really develop that love of reading.”

The event was part of the Steelers Huddle for 100 to help the NFL reach its goal of 100 million minutes of volunteerism and community activism this season as a part of the NFL’s 100th season.

“There is nothing more important than getting kids reading at a young age,” said Steelers President Art Rooney II. “There is so much research that shows how important that is. It’s great for these people to come out on a night like this to volunteer to help pack the reading kits. I am sure it’s going to go a long way.

“The generosity of the people in our community never ceases to amaze me and it makes you proud. It’s no surprise these people are out here on a cold, icy night giving their time to something that is going to make a difference in young people’s lives.”

The kits were all packed with a book, a book mark with literacy tips for families, crayons, teddy bear and a United Way 2-1-1 guide card to help families navigate through difficult times.

“If families need anything, our 2-1-1 line can help them. We will connect them with an agency that will provide them the basic needs. We want people to be aware of the line and to call it when they need it.”

The volunteers who were packing the kits came from a wide range, from current United Way donors to those new to being involved with the organization. And next month Steelers’ players will deliver the kits, which include hand-decorated bags.

“Any opportunity we have to partner with the Steelers always attracts some additional attention to the work the United Way is doing so we are thrilled to have it here,” said Koch. “Not only to provide and draw that attention, but to provide the people that are already connected with us a unique experience. It’s not often you get to come hang out in the training facility on the field. It’s a unique opportunity for everyone.”

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